DIS/EASE: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference

full name / name of organization: 
Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English (DAGSE)

August 19-21, 2016
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia

'I am Elizabeth Reegan and another day of my life is beginning' she said to herself. 'I am lying here in bed. I've been five weeks sick in bed, and there is no sign of me getting better. Though there's little pain, which is lucky, and the worst is fear and remorse and often the horrible meaninglessness of it all. Sometimes meaning and peace come but I lose them again, nothing in life is ever resolved once and for all.
- John McGahern, The Barracks (1963)

The potent image which ends John McGahern's The Barracks, Elizabeth Reegan dying of breast cancer and yet primarily troubled by the "horrible meaninglessness" of her life and death, illustrates the true complications of dis/ease. Just as she is afflicted with a physical illness, an ailment of the body, Reegan is stricken with feelings of anxiety and disquietude; she suffers from a literal dis-ease. If current events are any indication, our socio-cultural moment is suffering, like Reegan, from widespread dis/ease. The implementation of border checks in airports across the country during the massive outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014, the ongoing debate about the ethics and legality of euthanasia in Canada, and the recent ousting of Stephen Harper's Conservative government all reveal our continued concern for the health and well-being of our physical, social, and political bodies. Likewise, widespread concerns about the influx of refugees from the Middle East, about Bill C-51 and its effects on our privacy and personal freedoms, and about the irreversible effects of climate change all point to overwhelming feelings of unease and anxiety about the path on which our society is set. By and large, it is clear that ideas of illness, infection, unease, and uncertainty not only intersect in today's world but also define it.

What, though, might the broader causes of socio-cultural dis/ease be, and what are its symptoms? How are Western social anxieties similar or different than those elsewhere? How are the manifestations of social disorders and cultural discomfort in the present day different than or linked to the past? Is there a productive potential in this socio-cultural dis/ease, or is it the case, as Chekhov put it, that "when a lot of remedies are suggested for a disease, that means it cannot be cured"? What might different approaches to the study of dis/ease in literary studies, sociology, psychology, philosophy, or other disciplines tell us about the nature of dis/ease, and how might an interdisciplinary approach inform the study of dis/ease? We encourage thoughtful engagement with such questions, but also welcome analyses of dis/ease as it manifests itself more broadly in literature, the arts, history, popular culture, politics, and the everyday.

The Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English (DAGSE) invites submissions of paper presentations for "DIS/EASE: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference." We welcome proposals from students at all levels and in all areas of graduate study. This three-day conference will be held August 19-21, 2016 at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will investigate the various origins, forms, and results of dis/ease in culture and society.

We invite proposals for papers (15-20 minutes) on themes and subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Medical humanities
  • Contamination and corruption
  • Damage and renovation
  • Institutional and systemic "brokenness"
  • The language of dis/ease
  • Disease, illness, and the gendered body
  • The "pathologies" of lived experience and mental/physical illness
  • Healing, reconciliation, and colonial violence
  • "Fixing" disease – eugenic thinking; psychiatric survivorship
  • Diseased environments and environmental racism

Keynote Speakers: Our keynote speakers will be announced shortly.

Submissions: Please submit a 250-word abstract plus a 50-word biographical statement that includes your name, current level of graduate study, affiliated university, and email address to dagse.conference@gmail.com. Panel submissions are also welcome.

Please include the words "conference abstract" in subject line.

Deadline: 15 April 2016. Accepted presenters will receive notification in early June.

Contact the organizers at dagse.conference@gmail.com if you have questions about the conference. Visit the conference website at http://www.dal.ca/faculty/arts/english/news-events/dagse-conference.html.